Fascinating facts about animals | Sunday Observer

Fascinating facts about animals

27 June, 2021

Human life is closely connected with many types of animals. In the past, we used animals such as donkeys to carry goods from place to another. Before the invention of modern machines, the elephant was used to carry heavy loads. In battles, we depended heavily on elephants and horses. On the other hand, man used to kill certain animals for food. Therefore, we have to pay more attention to animals.

Sometimes children ask whether fish can sleep. We see fish swimming in water all the time. We assume that they do not sleep. That is like assuming that humans cannot sleep because they do not shut their ears to drown out sounds. Even amid various sounds, we are able to sleep.

Scientists say many species of fish also take time out during the day or even at night to enter a sleeplike stage. Some of them simply lie on the bottom of rivers or oceans and others float on water. Some species even go to the extent of preparing a resting place before sleeping.

Wrasses, for instance, burrow into sand until all that is visible is a small mound that rises and falls with their breathing. Over short distances, the sailfish can reach a speed of 110 kmh. However, marlins are the fastest over long distances

They can reach a speed of 68 to 80 kmh. The whale shark is the largest sea animal weighing about 21 tonnes. The ocean sunfish can lay up to 30 million eggs at a time.

Environmentalists always draw our attention to endangered species of animals. Spix’s macaws are believed to be the most endangered species of animals in the world. Sometime ago, newspapers reported that two of them lived in a Brazilian zoo, while an estimated 20 to 30 were held by private collectors.

According to another report, the o’o bird lived in the Hawaiian island of Kauai. However, nobody has seen this rare bird during the past ten years. Environmentalists are of the view that the bird has vanished for good.

Deadliest reptile

In Asian countries, the deadliest reptile is supposed to be the king cobra. Although a king cobra can kill a man instantly, mosquitoes can kill thousands of people in a short period. Therefore, mosquitoes are supposed to be the deadliest creatures on earth. The malarial parasite carried by mosquitoes killed more than a million children in a year in Africa alone.

Malaria was rampant even in Sri Lanka in the 1930 and ’40s. According to sources, malaria may have killed more people than all the wars fought in the world.

Mosquitoes also carry at least 100 different viruses causing diseases such as yellow fever and dengue. The dengue virus is spreading once again in Sri Lanka and the authorities are taking action to destroy mosquito breeding places.

Man has lived as a hunter, farmer and worker in various stages of his development. Most animals also try to adjust to changing circumstances. However, a shellfish called ‘Lingula’s fossil record stretches back to more than 500 million years.

It had not changed since the Paleozoic Era. According to Norman Newell, a retired curator of at the American Museum of Natural History, Lingula’s organism itself was not under pressure to change.

The life-span of animals varies from one animal species to another. While an elephant may live for 30 years, a dog will only live for 10 to 12 years. The mayfly lives only for a few hours after emerging from its nymphal shell. Only a few mayflies live longer than a day.

They do not have functional mouths or stomachs so they do not eat anything. At the other extreme, an Arctic clam lived under water for 220 years. A fully-grown tortoise, captured in 1766, died in 1918, having lived for 152 years. Meanwhile, a Japanese man – Shigechiyo Izumi – lived for 121 years.

Tiny creatures

There are tiny creatures you cannot see with your naked eyes. Have you ever heard of ‘Demodex folliculorum,’ a tiny eight-legged relative of the spider that makes its home in hair follicles, including those at the base of your eyelashes. They do not hurt you and are perfectly benign. Follicle mites are vastly outnumbered by their off-body brethren that feed on the flakes of dead skin that cascade from our body day and night. A double-bed mattress contains as many as two million mites.

Many mammals and birds, like humans, dream during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. You may have seen dogs growl and whimper while fast asleep.

Researchers have identified brain stems in cats that seem to inhibit muscular movement during sleep. Sometimes, sleeping cats act out their dream quite dramatically.

Bats are supposed to have an acute sense of hearing. They can locate an object simply by using their ears. Bats can apparently distinguish a moth’s shape from that of a leaf the same size.

They can also gauge a moth’s speed through the air by a split-second analysis of echoes. Whales and dolphins also use echolocation better than bats.


The question whether animals can use language has puzzled many psychologists. Many animals, however, communicate with one another in rudimentary forms.

For instance, fiddler crabs wave their claws to signal, bees dance to indicate the direction in which food will be found, and certain birds call ‘zick, zick’ during courtship and ‘kia’ when they are about to fly away.

However, researchers have still not found conclusive evidence that animals can use language like humans. Meanwhile, psychologists have been able to teach chimps to communicate at surprisingly high levels. But critics contend that the language such animals use lacks grammar.

Some animals have enriched the English language. Although a donkey is a beast of burden, it is used as a symbol of patience or stupidity. It is said that a bellowing cow soon forgets her calf. It means that the person who laments most loudly is the one who is soonest comforted. They say there is a black sheep in every family. It is a reference to a member of the family who is regarded as a disgrace to it.

Although we rear cats as pets, they are traditionally associated with witchcraft. In Christian art, a cat may be shown in a picture as emblematic of sinful human nature. The cat may also be used informally for a malicious or spiteful woman. In ancient Egypt, however, cats were regarded as sacred animals. The Goddess Bastet is shown with a cat’s head.

Elephant in the room

The elephant is the largest living land animal. If you have an elephant in the room, it is an unwelcome fact which is not directly referred to but is known to everybody.

The expression recorded from the 1980s, as in ‘An elephant in the living room’ (1984), which presented alcoholism as an unmentionable family problem.

The fox is proverbial for its artfulness and cunning. In Ben Jonson’s play, the miser who deceives those around him with promises of wealth is named ‘Volpone’ (in Italian ‘fox’). The late President J.R. Jayewardene was nicknamed ‘Old Fox” and according to his biographer, he loved it!

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